Monday, 19 November 2012

The Prince of Wales Camp Postmarks 1921-1922

The Future King Edward VIII on Tour

From 1919 to 1922, the Prince of Wales, the future King Edward VIII, embarked on a grand world tour. 

In 1921, the Eastern Tour commenced. The HMS Renown departed Portsmouth at sunset on October 26, with the Prince on the saluting deck. The ship called at Gibraltar, Malta, Port Said, Suez and Aden before arriving at Bombay on November 17. Four months later, on March 17, the Prince left India behind as the Renown sailed for Japan.

A commemorative postmark was used during the tour of the subcontinent, featuring the legend "H.R.H The Prince of Wales' Camp P.O." at the top, with the Prince of Wales feathers in the top centre, and seven bars on each side. The date and time are at the bottom centre, with a thick bar below

Although the postmark doesn't show a location, the tour itinerary makes it possible to ascertain where the postmark was used.

The itinerary was kindly provided by Kasinath Rajasekaran on the Global Philately Facebook Page, and reproduced here in full:

November 17 - Arrived at Bombay
November 23 - Baroda
November 25 - Udaipur
November 28 - Ajmer
November 29 - Jodhpur
December 2 - Bikaner
December 7 - Bharatpur
December 9 - Lucknow
December 13 - Benares
December 23 - Patna
December 24 - Calcutta

January 2 - Rangoon
January 6 - Mandalay
January 13 - Madras
January 18 - Bangalore
January 19 - Mysore
January 23 - Karapur
January 25 - Hyderabad
January 30 - Nagpur
February 1 - Indore
February 4 - Bhopal
February 8 - Gwalior
February 13 - Agra
February 14 - Delhi
February 22 - Patiala
February 25 - Jullundhar
February 25 - Lahore
March 2 - Jammu
March 5 - near Jamrud, North-West Frontier
March 6 - Peshawar
March 11 - Rawalpindi
March 12 - Kapurthala
March 13 - Dehradun
March 17 - Karachi

The postmark shown above carries the date of 10 MAR 22, which falls between dates on the itinerary. On March 6, the tour had reached Peshawar, and on March 11 the Prince was in Rawalpindi. Although the two cities are only 182 kilometres and less than two hours apart by a modern motorway, it would have been a much longer journey in 1922. I think it is safe to assume that the Prince would have been in Rawalpindi on March 10 in readiness for the start of his official duties on March 11.

© Google Maps

Luckily, the tour was recorded in a superb book, "The Prince of Wales' Eastern Book", by Sir Percival Phillips, which was produced to raise funds for The Blinded Sailors and Soldiers Hostel at St Dunstan's.

This excerpt from the book shows that the Prince stayed at the Circuit House in Rawalpindi as the guest of Lord Rawlinson, the Commander-in-Chief. It cannot be assumed that the Prince ever stayed in the camp during the tour. It's far more likely that the camp was for the use of the Prince's entourage and the touring press

There were, in fact, three postmarks used, with the above example the most common. The second type has no shaded bars, no time stamp and the bottom bar replaced with a star (although not visible in this picture, I assume that the feathers are present), The third, and rarest type, has the abbreviation "DELY" for "delivery" and no shaded bars. A registration label was also produced, seemingly a blank Indian label, with a handstruck cachet bearing the three feathers and "H.R.H. The Prince of Wales' Camp"

(The quality of these pictures is very poor. The pictures were provided to me and I regret that I can give no credit for them. I'll be happy to provide correct attribution and credit for their use upon receiving advice regarding the copyright holder)

A check of Ebay today showed covers available for the following dates:

January 30 - Nagpur 
February 2 - Indore/Bhopal?
February 8 - Gwalior
March 10 - Rawalpindi
March 17 - Karachi

All the covers have the commonest postmark and have an average price of £27 as Buy It Now items.

I started my own journey into the Prince of Wales' tour of the east by being lucky enough to buy the above piece for £1. It seems that it would be possible to put together a collection of exhibition standard covering the entire tour if time and money are no object.

I'll need to consider whether I'm able to join the Prince on his Tour of the subcontinent!


  1. I see 'Camp' as more of a concept, not an actual row of tents!

  2. As I did at first. However "The Prince of Wales' Eastern Book" mentions numerous occasions of erecting tents, such as this from the detour to Nepal:

    "The streets of tents were grouped around a central drawing-room and dining-room"

    Mind you, the Prince "roughing it" in a camp bed is something I would consider doubtful!

  3. An exhibit of the tour will be shown at Autumn Stampex 2016